Monday, November 30, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

David Freeland digs through the history of an old East Harlem theater once known as the Cosmo. [GLF]

Happy 20th Birthday to Max Fish. [EVG]

Glory be, the Nom Wah Tea Parlor reopens on Doyers Street! [LC]

Hubert's Dime Museum--one of the many places that makes me wish for a time machine. [ENY]

In Queens, watching old houses fall to make room for McMansions and Fedders boxes. [HP]

A belated Thanksgiving greeting from Greenpoint. [NYS]

A reason to go to the Time Warner Center--rock & roll. [Stupe]

Take a visit to Fort Totten. [Blah]

Goldman Sachs building drops another load. [Gothamist]

Bike Repair 1989

Before Zum Schneider resided on the corner of 7th and C, there was this guy.

Youtube user "bobertbach" posted this 1989 film of the man online and wrote:

"This man ran a bike repair shop in the abandon NW corner of C & 7th in the late 80's. When he needed to straighten out a bike frame he would wait for a bus to stop across the street & stick it under its' tire. I can remember him arguing with a bus driver. He was eventually evicted by developers. It is currently Zum Schneider."

There's also a dog in the film, sleeping soundly on the hood of a car. Bobertbach writes, "The dog, 'Hank' was owned by actor Mark Boone Jr. who was a bartender at Vazaks in the mid to late 80's. It was stranger than paradise."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

In case you're left without a place to feast tomorrow, try some of these locales for homemade-like cooking. The Howard Johnson's menu looks good. Chilled fruit cup with sherbet. Mince pie. Freshly baked rolls and butter. Orange drink! Mints!

click to enlarge

Actually, this is a scan from a 1955 Village Voice. So, unfortunately, you won't be able to feast at the Greenwich Village HoJo's tomorrow, nor at any of the other places mentioned here. They're all gone.

Maybe it's best to take the writer's advice: "the wisest thing is to go to a friend's home and get fractured."

-A look back at the HoJo's of Times Square, the history of the building that held it, and what's there now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The Papaya King on 14th and 7th is shuttered. The neon lights are off, the shades are down, and the interior is a wreck of packing boxes. It went on the market last January.:

Walker in the City visits Bleecker Street and the author responds to all those many Marc Jacobs stores: "I imagined myself, if I had a business, having three or four shops on one street with my name on them all and the thought embarrassed me." [WIC]

Avalon Bowery appears to emit "poison molecule," sends blogger into paroxysms of paranoid delusion. [Restless]

Brian Berger interviews Luc Sante about his new book. [WWIB]

Umm...what? "During his campaign for a third term, Mayor Bloomberg stifled a Freedom of Information Law request by withholding the release of photographs of himself with Sarah Palin until two weeks after the election, the Daily News reports." [Gothamist]

PJ Hanley's pub to move in next to the International Bar? [EVG]

"More Jane" Ts

We asked and we have received. Mike Joyce, creator of the "More Jane, Less Marc" guerrilla postcard campaign, has put his catchy slogan on a t-shirt.

I interviewed Mike last month after spotting his postcard in the Village and (offline) begged him to print up some t-shirts. I wasn't the only one--he received dozens of requests. Now you can own your very own "More Jane, Less Marc" shirt for just 20 bucks.

I suggest you wear it on Bleecker Street.

To order, e-mail Mike at his business, Stereotype Design, and specify your size: XS, S, M, L, or XL. (In a weird ironic twist, they're printed on American Apparel shirts--click here for size chart). Plus! If you order now, Mike will throw in a handful of "More Jane" postcards, so you can spread the love all over.

Monday, November 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Loving the Garment District: "The area still has pungency. It has not surrendered to the great anaesthetizing march of modernity. It has not chased its working class to faraway suburbs. It has not become a hollow movie-set version of an authentic place..." [NYT]

photo from my flickr

London looks for New York's lost edge--and I do my usual complaint to the folks across the pond. [LT]

Alex's "Then & Now" looks back at Ludlow and Cortlandt. [FP]

The vendors ousted from the 17th St. flea market have found a home at the Chelsea Antiques Garage. [CN]

Alligators in the sewers. [CR]

Enjoying the elegance of concrete arches. [FNY]

99X to close on once-doomed 10th Street. [EVG]

Take a walking tour with Lost City Brooks. [LC]

London Times

The London Times asked me some questions about whether or not New York has "lost its edge." (Article accessed by subscription only.)

Here's what they put together from what I told them:

Among artists and writers there is a general sense of loss. Jeremiah Moss, who runs a blog called Vanishing New York, believes that the city has become not only sanitised but a sort of parody of what it once was. “I think the idea that New York is an edgy place has vanished almost entirely,” he says. “It used to be immune to the tastes and sensibilities of middle-brow America. Now that has taken over completely. It’s a nice town — safe and clean — for tourists and investment bankers. You used to come to New York to get away from Middle America, but now you show up here and there it is.

“Is New York still the centre of the Earth? Well, if your definition of the centre of the Earth is McDonald’s and Starbucks, then yes it is.”

New Yorkers such as Moss are particularly dismayed by some of the new architecture in the city. They don’t like what has happened to Times Square, and the prevalence of “this very cold, sleek look made of glass with no exterior walls.”

Many citizens are appalled by plans to rid the city of its newspaper vendors, one of its hallmarks. The newspaper shacks are to be replaced by glass and chrome pods, half owned by the Spanish corporation who will build them. The dividends from the commercials that will appear on the side of these pods will be divided between the city and the company.

Moss also points out “a weird trend in New York for making a simulacrum of the original.” As an example he mentions the cult punk bar CBGB, once the “home of underground rock”, where Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones have all performed. The venue closed in 2006 and was eventually bought by the high-end men’s fashion designer, John Varvatos, who turned it into a boutique.

“He’s kept a lot of the original interior, so you feel like you’re walking into a rock ’n’ roll space,” Moss says. “But actually you’re walking into a super high-end boutique that sells $700 Ramones T-shirts.”
It was eventually announced that the alley behind the club would be converted into a pedestrian mall, a step that provoked Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys to tell the New York Post that “all of Manhattan has lost its soul to money lords”.

Chelsea Guitars

After 20 years on the street level of the Chelsea Hotel, Dan's Chelsea Guitars is moving. Luckily, they're only going 52 1/2 feet away.

They are moving into the much smaller sliver of a room that once belonged to the Balabanis tailor shop. The Balabanis moved out last year. The tailor shop has sat empty and gated since then.

As you can see from the (below) photo I took in 2007, it's a tight space. And while I'm happy to hear that Chelsea Guitars is remaining in the Chelsea--something of a miracle--I worry about how owner Dan Courtenay is going to cram all of his gorgeous guitars, taxidermied animals, rubber sharks, paintings, and assorted music memorabilia into the new space, and what losing those big display windows will do to business--not to mention where the sign will go, with its iconic painting of God Himself handing a guitar down from the clouds.

I guess, if this goes like every other recent Chelsea Hotel eviction, after the move, the old guitar shop will sit empty and gated, maybe hosting a temporary art installation now and then, until a bank decides to move in. Or a cupcake bakery.

Or a frozen yogurt joint.
Or a Duane Reade.
Or a high-end burger joint.
Or a Subway.
Or an Artichoke gastropizzeria.
Or an artisanal chocolatier.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Westsider Books

On the Upper West Side, across from Zabar's, a bookstore has stood for more than three decades in one incarnation or another. Today it's Westsider Books and it has pretty much everything you could want in a bookstore.

Long and narrow, with high ceilings, Westsider is packed to the rafters with used books. The shelves are stacked 15 levels tall. Ask for a title you can't find and the knowledgeable shopkeeper will mount a tall rolling ladder to retrieve it.

view from the second level

Not only are the books packed high, they're also packed deep--two levels deep. If the book you're looking for doesn't come down from the heights, the shopkeeper will dig behind the first layer of volumes, pulling out handfuls at a time, to find your quarry in the depths.

It's the sort of place where you can lose yourself.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Artist Jeanne-Claude, of Jeanne-Claude and Christo, has died. [NYT]

Colum McCann's novel of '70s NYC wins National Book Award. [NYT]

Alex's "Then & Now" revisits Soho. [FP]

On the Bowery with Metropolis, the Cooper Square Hotel "appears to be a cartoon illustrating the evils of overdevelopment." [EVG]

Drinking at the Nancy Whiskey bar. [COS]

Someone doesn't like the proliferation of Mr. Brainwash wheatpastes in Meatpacking:

HuffPo catches up on the McDonald's mod redesign in Chelsea. Says a Mickey D's spokeswoman, "People are using our restaurants differently today than they did five, 10, 20 years ago. People are multitasking, doing more on a given day... You want to be able to open your laptop, log on and get some work done while you're eating." [HP]

A quick look at the city's vanishing Hallmark stores. [ENY]

A virtual tugboat appears with a ghost sign on Berry St. [NYS]

Future of Books

While we're on the topic of vanishing books, the Times has a piece about how consumers actually prefer reading "books" on their tiny smartphone screens, where they can do "everything." But it's the doing everything, combined with reading, that defeats the purpose of the book. Multitasking and distraction interfere with immersive reading. And spraying your smartphone with "Smell of Books" won't help.

As a blogger who spends too much time on the Web, I've noticed my own ability to focus on a book has become impaired. My brain is changing. And so is yours.

smartphones: 3, books: 1

The Autumn 2009 issue of the Wilson Quarterly looks at The Future of the Book. Among a series of articles, including one about "Your Brain on the Web," Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis: Journal of Technology and Society, offers an excellent essay called "In the Beginning Was the Word." She writes about how abridgment, beginning with Reader's Digest and ending (so far) with blogs and tweets, has contributed to the demise of depth reading--and, ultimately, human empathy.

So, at risk of doing exactly what Rosen warns us against, I'm going to highlight a few quotes from the article, self-consciously abridging it in blog style. Since the article is not available online, I hope it will inspire you to seek out the magazine to read the whole thing.

"Our screen-intensive culture poses three challenges to traditional reading: distraction, consumerism, and attention-seeking behavior."

"We live in a world of continuous partial attention, one that prizes speed and brandishes the false promise of multi-tasking as a solution to our time management challenges. The image-driven world of the screen dominates our attention at the same time that it contributes to a kind of experience pollution that is challenging our ability to engage with the printed word."

"With the purchase of a traditional book, your consumer relationship ends when you walk out of the bookstore. With a wirelessly connected Kindle or iPhone, or your Wi-Fi-enabled computer, you exist in a perpetual state of potential consumerism."

"the transition from print reading to screen reading has increased our reliance on images and led to a form of 'social narcissism.'"

"[The] concern--that a culture that craves the image will eventually find itself mired in solipsism and satisfied by secondhand experiences--has been borne out. We follow the Twitter feeds of protesting Iranians and watch video of Michael Jackson's funeral and feel connected to the rest of the world, even though we lack context for that feeling and don't make much effort to achieve it beyond logging on. The screen offers us the illusion of participation, and this illusion is becoming our preference. As Boorstin observed, 'Every day seeing there and hearing there takes the place of being there.'"

You can read the rest of this essay by buying this issue through the Wilson Quarterly website, or finding it in your local indie bookshop.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Alex's "Then and Now" covers Noho and Soho. [FP]

Grieve gets some graffiti love. [EVG]

Coop hotel revelers party under Homer Simpson's mug. [NMNL]

Lou Reed will be at NYPL 12/8. [Stupefaction]

92Y Tribeca brings you back to NYC in the 70s--in film. [BB]

Enter the Jazz Loft. [P&W]

On the Train

Continuing the Book Week theme...

The other night, while riding the subway, I sat across from a man and a woman. They were strangers to me and to each other.

The man was double-fisting electronic gadgets--a Blackberry in one hand and an iPod in the other--tapping and scrolling without cease.

The woman was reading a paperback novel--Wuthering Heights.

I read Wuthering Heights in high school.

Looking at the woman, I had some idea of what was in her head: shadowy moors, a damp Yorkshire manor, the thwarted passions of Heathcliff and Cathy. I felt connected to her in our semi-shared experience.

I remembered being 16 years old and what that felt like, when I learned the word "misanthropist" from an elderly, blue-haired teacher who repeated, again and again, "Heathcliff is what you call a real misanthropist." Later, I discovered that "misanthropist" is not a word, and that the proper word is "misanthrope." But either way, the meaning is the same: A general dislike for humanity, often originating in feelings of social alienation.

Which is what I felt when I looked at the man with the gadgets. He fingered and clicked, flicked his eyes back and forth, up and down. I felt anxious when I looked at the man. I felt disconnected and alienated.

Overhead, among the subway advertisements, a poster displayed the first sentence from Kafka's Metamorphosis: "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous bug."

Kafka's novella has often been said to be about dehumanizing alienation in the face of modernity, in the onslaught of new technologies ushered in by the Industrial Revolution.

So there it was, that opening line, on a subway car in 2009, over a pair of strangers--one with her mind in a Victorian novel printed on paper, the other with his brain ping-ponging between the two poles of a postmodern technological couple.

Today, maybe we all feel a bit buggy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The score: Smartphones 3 (count 'em!), Books 1.

"The old, weird LES" still lives at the Mr. Lower East Side pageant. [Interview] & [Voice]

11/19: Closing party for Leee Black Childers' photographs of NYC "Drag Queens and Rent Boys," at Subdivision Art.

Meet Kenneth of Bedford. [NYS]


On a hectic day, just stepping into a bookshop, without even opening a single volume, will calm me. There's something about being in the presence of all that effort, all that possibility. I feel myself expand in the company of books. I can breathe there. To think of bookstores vanishing from the city makes me panicky. Which is why I'm so relieved that the latest of our vanishing indie shops has been reincarnated.

The Biography Bookshop has opened a new location, further east on Bleecker and under the new name "bookbook."

Bookbook is open for business and Independent Bookstore Week is a great time to make a visit to check them out. The new space is bigger than the last, bright and airy and filled with books. And, as in the old space, they've still got plenty of cheap remainders for sale on carts outside.

For a brief time, bookbook coexists with the old Biography. But not for long. In January the old location closes and turns into a Marc Jacobs store, which may or may not sell books.

Monday, November 16, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

It's not just New York. The whole country is infected by the cupcake craze--and cuteness in general. Why? Because, says author Roland Kelts, "you are desperate to be known... And if you are desperate to be known, you need a strategy for being known, and a very good strategy is the old evolutionary one of being so cute that you need to be cared for." [VF]

More photo-tacular "Then & Now" from Alex in NYC. [FP]

Check out "Only in New York," photos of the city at MCNY. [Stupefaction]

Brian Berger interviews Jonathan Lethem on Chronic City. [WWIB]

Old and new side by side on W. 23rd, as the glassy "Modern23" abuts a classic:

City landlords have begun banning cigarette smoking in your own apartment--new tenants "must sign an agreement promising not to smoke inside their homes." [Gothamist]

Is Trump Soho going into foreclosure? [Curbed]

Blood on the streets of Alphabet City. [NMNL]

View the life cycle of Eldridge Street. [BB]

The EV Pizza Shop has closed due to high rent. [EVG]

Buy Some Books

Yesterday began the first Independent Bookstore Week in New York City. There will be parties, free cookies, bagels, readings, and more at indie bookshops all over the city--check out the calendar here.

Just in time, stomping on the grave of The Book, Union Square's Barnes & Noble has removed a big section of books by the front doors and replaced them with this Nook display:

The "Nook" is B&N's answer to the Kindle, the other book killer on the market. What makes the Nook so special? You can get designer covers for it by Kate Spade, Jack Spade, and Jonathan Adler. This aspect makes the Nook especially appealing to people who shop on the New Bleecker Street, and to the Sex & the City crowd, who will no doubt clamor for the Kate Spade "Jane Street" cover in hot pink.

In the marketing photo below, the glasses seem to signify, "Hey, just because you like hot pink stuff doesn't mean you're a dummy." The embossed text on the cover reads, "She kept her nose in a book," while on the back it's "and her head in the clouds." Which says to me, "Hey, you're a bookish dreamer, Baby! You're still a little girl at heart and what's wrong with that? Now, let's download the latest digital offering from Candace Bushnell and get that faux-Golightly feeling all over."

Whether or not these are attractive covers is not the point. The point is: The Nook is not a book, and if you stick your nose into it, it won't feel much different than an iPhone or a laptop.

As Nooks, Kindles, and iPhones take over our attentions, we lose our ability to read in depth (you are scanning this screen right now), actual books will be relegated to props in trendy bar windows and condo lounges, while bookstores--including Barnes & Noble--will vanish. Our minds and our lives will be more impoverished for it.

Until that "Book-apocalypse" day comes, go visit an indie and buy their books--before it's too late. Here's IBNYC's extensive list of indie bookshops in the city. I have definitely not visited all of them. Those that I have visited, and covered here, you can find at the following links:

Friday, November 13, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Sunday begins Indie Bookstore Week NYC--go buy some books!

Digital billboard at Hudson and Canal "an absolute menace," especially for "the ferocious manner in which the light blasts forth from what seems to be the heavens of the Lord himself." [NYCB]

Theatre 80 announces its first film screening in years with "Brooklyn Heist." [EVG]

Former Barnes & Noble on 6th Ave to become Trader Joe's. One big box becomes another. [Curbed]

Walking about Wallabout. [ENY]

"Community Board 3 continues to lead the city in the number of 311 Police Department commercial noise complaints — centered around nightlife activities. It is also the number one complaint to the community board." [Villager]

New David's

Last month I reported that David's Shoe repair in the East Village was being gutted and that David's grandson--also named David--promised to reopen as the same business, just renovated. Some folks wondered if this could be true--maybe a fro-yo shop would open up instead.

Yesterday, the paper came off the windows to reveal--it's still David's Shoe Store.

The place is bigger and brighter inside, with a fresh paint job, but the big shoe-repair machines are in the back, wooden shoe lasts are hanging on the wall, and there's no fro-yo in sight. Also, the 1940s Cat's Paw lady is still stuck on the window with David's hand-painted signage. Let's hope she stays, too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Coming soon to Bedford Ave: Improvements to the public urination facilities once known as payphones! [NYS]

After I announced the Decapitator's treasure-hunt yesterday, readers and bloggers hustled to find the altered magazines. The Voice got one. So did Tokion. After a couple of tries, I managed to score one of my own. It's way better than an Easter egg. Did anyone else find one?

For bachelors who came to NYC seeking, as one actually said, "this sort of ‘Sex and the City’ lifestyle," life has gotten rather hard. [NYT]

Some unemployeds just can't stop spending hundreds a month on Starbucks and mani-pedis. [Gothamist]

Antique footwear discovered in Orchard demolition. [BB]

Enjoying the pleasures, and pains, of urban window peeping. [NYT]

Bloomberg buys Sitt's Coney--now what? [NYT]

A cabinet of curiosities at Coney Island. [ATZ]

Hello kitty. [EVG]

So many chains, so many new signs. The Chase at 8th and 2nd got a big one. Best Buy in Union Square got one. The 7/11 on 14th got one. You've got to cherish these authentic New York moments...


Anna Jane Grossman will be discussing her book Obsolete at Word Bookshop in Greenpoint tonight at 7:30. Click over to Word for all the info.

I asked Anna, who grew up in Manhattan throughout the 80s and 90s, what she will miss the most of the things disappearing from the city. She mentioned chalk drawings on the street, seeing garment workers at their sewing machines from her bedroom window, and the nondescript businesses that have vanished.

As for a list of the top few, she writes the following:

Here are a few of the things that I'd like my future self to remember--objects that are either fading or don't exist. They made up the landscape of a city that wasn't necessarily better or just was a city that felt a little more like it was mine.

They stood tall on many a city block for decades. Quite a few remain, but today they are an example of an obsolete object that continues to exist only because it can be used for ad space. Pay phones give the ads an air of purpose; otherwise, they'd just be stand-alone billboards conspicuously demanding our attention like signs on the side of the highway.

With cell phones as omnipresent as they are, few people today ever have a need to use a pay phone. There's no denying that cell phones are more convenient (when they're charged, at least), but I'd argue that they pull us out of the world: we become so engrossed in our phone conversations that we are constantly bumping into people or talking so loudly in public that everyone else avoids us. Pay phones were more communal; each one could be a set for a million dramas a day. I remember which one I was at when I learned of my nephew's birth (57th and 5th street) or the one where, at 19, I called the first guy who ever broke my heart and cried into the phone (inside Reebok Sports Club on the Upper West Side). Surprisingly, this didn't win him back.

Today, we can fit all of Proust--translated into thirty languages, no less--on a flash drive the size of my fingernail. Pretty amazing. Also amazing: the way that the White Pages contained the name of every single person in New York! Or at least, almost. Even amazing-er? There were pages and pages of people named Grossman. Also, Lipschitz.

Not only were all these people located in one book, but also, all these people most likely owned the book as well. If you said, "I'm in the book," everyone knew what you meant. I few times as a kid, I recall calling the guy who was last in the phone book. His name was Zelmo Zzzzzip, and his answering machine said, "Hello, this is Zelmo."

While researching Obsolete, I tracked down Mr. Zzzzzip, whose real name is Ed Saxon. Saxon also had the pseudonym Aaron A-aaaba, and apparently he and another A-lover silently fought year after year, adding extra A's to their names and then hoping they were first when the book fell on their doorsteps. He set up the Zelmo answering machine just because he thought it'd be funny to listen to the messages from dumb kids like me! Now, Saxon lives in LA...and he told me he hadn't used a phone book in years.


Tokens were fazed out a few years ago; on some turnstiles you can see where the coin slot was patched over. Tokens were straight-forward objects. If you had a token on you, you had a token on you. If you didn't, you didn't. Today, I'm constantly thinking I have subway or bus fare only to find that my card has just $0.43 or some weird amount on it. Tokens didn't fool around like that. You either had a whole one or you had none at all. The first token I remember using had a big Y on it. Actually, it said NYC, but the Y was the letter that took center stage. In 1986 they introduced one that looked like a bull's eye with a magnetic, pearly center. I used to pop out the middle using a nail and a hammer and then would turn them into necklaces. Lastly there were small silver ones with pentagons cut out of their centers. When MetroCards were introduced, they were blue with yellow writing. I keep thinking this yellow card thing is just a fad.


We're a rather literary city. A few writers have lived here. Did you know Shakespeare was actually a New Yorker? We're also a busy city. Your average New Yorker, however, used to know that he'd get to read at least two words a day: Walk and Don't Walk. When, about ten years ago, they replaced these signs with the little walking man and the huge red hand (I say "huge" because it's the same size as the man), I felt that our intelligence was insulted. Made our corners look like every other city's. Their little LED bulbs just don't have the same grit as the back-lit signs used to have. Now, some of them are even equipped with timers: apparently, we are slow in addition to being illiterate. But you know, whatever: New York pedestrians have no fear. Traffic signs are for sissies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

High Line condos just keep getting shinier and glassier. Here's HL23 with its quilted-metal, space-age skin and sloping windows that you know no shades will ever cover--because hovering over the High Line is the perfect spot for showing off your goods:

from my flickr

The Starlite Lounge, Brooklyn's oldest gay bar--and maybe the city's first black-owned gay bar--is on the chopping block, thanks to a new landlord. [Gothamist]

The District, the condo that provided a "pretend life," gets even more pretendy as they host Victoria's Secret Angel Bootcamp. [EVG]

The Slum Goddess goes for a swing on Spidey's magic ride. [NMNL]

Yuppie Overlords called out on the Bowery. [BB]

Bellevue's psych hospital retains its spooky charms. [GVDP]

Carpets removed from StuyTown's elevators, thanks to poop-shoed college kids: Says one maintenance man, "The last time I checked dogs didn't wear New Balance sneakers when they stomped their feces into a rug." [STLL]

Lenox Lounge is 70

Before 2009 is over, there's still time to visit the Lenox Lounge and celebrate its 70th year in Harlem.

photos from my flickr

Opened in 1939, the Lenox Lounge was, according to its website, "the back drop for many jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The Jazz Club also known as the Zebra Room was once used by the Harlem Renaissance writes James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. It was also said to be a hangout for Malcolm X."

After a downturn, it was restored in 1999. Said owner Alvin Reed at the time, ''I'm a person of the past; I love the past. When I first took over, I had some people who didn't really appreciate the decor of the place. They were like, 'Oh we're glad it's a new owner. Now you can modernize this place.'" Thankfully, he didn't.

Today the Lenox Lounge retains its Art-Deco splendor. The floor is tiled, the ceiling is leather, the Zebra Room in back is still upholstered in zebra skin. The highly decorated bathroom doors are designated for "Ladies" and "Gents."

In the middle of the day, the Lenox Lounge feels like a comfy, gorgeous dive--in the best sense of the word--a neighborhood bar, nothing fancy. Old-timers sit at the bar's corner, where old-timers always seem to sit. You can find these same men in black-and-white photos on the wall, back in the days when they played in the Zebra Room.

The only reminder that it's 2009 and not 1939 are the flatscreen TVs, showing some sort of ballgame about which the friendly barmaid will be shouting over fumbles or home runs. And don't be surprised when someone buys you a drink for no other reason than they felt like it. It's that kind of place.

Monday, November 9, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

More "Then & Now," the EV edition, from Alex. [FP]

The Bowery gets a flea market with "t-shirt stalls, vintage clothing stands, and soapmongers." [Racked]

New outpost for indie Book Culture on the UWS. [Racked]

Totonno's prepares to re-open. “This is New York,” said the owner. “Some things shouldn’t change.” [NYM]

This block-by-block map of the mayoral election is a fun time. Good to see the East Village and Lower East Side voted against Bloomberg--a blue oasis in a red sea! [NYT]

Overzealous Yankee fan Wall Streeters tossed confidential documents out their windows during the parade, including pay stubs, personal financial information, and "a balance sheet of someone's trust fund showing $300,000 in stock." [ESPN]

More reason to worry about the wonderful Nom Wah Tea Parlor of Doyers St. [BB]

Go mad for 14th St. [FNY]

A trip to the top of Colonnade Row. [NYT]

Mugging renews fears that Central Park is unsafe after dark. [Gothamist]

Even smokestacks have to be pretty. [EVG]

Friday, November 6, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

"The New just a showcase for art bought during the luxury boom, and serves to connect the luxury shopping mall of Soho, the new luxury condos on the Lower East Side, and the luxury hotels further up Bowery--helping turn yet another swath of NYC into a playground for aristocrats." [Restless]

Also, the New Museum Store sells this item--"as a commentary and memorial to Ramone’s disappearing punk rock counterculture." It sells for $250:

Art D'Lugoff, Village royalty, dead at 85. [VV]

Just finished reading Paul Auster's new novel, Invisible. Highly recommend it. Here's an interview with the author at HuffPo.

Wall Street bankers get the swine flu vaccine before the city's poor schlubs. [Gothamist]

Mars Bar bankers get vandalized. [EVG]

Taking a long walk across the city with a waitress from Greenpoint. [NYT]

How Rev. Billy almost, sort of, became the mayor. [LM]

City Pianos

Just like in old Bugs Bunny cartoons--

city pianos go flying--

into upper story windows.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Residences for women--a flashback to the past still surviving in the city. [NYT]

"The Vanishing City," the documentary, screens tomorrow night. Check it out! [VC]

"Biggus Buckus," the imperial Bloomberg: "New Yorkers know...that we’re bought and paid for. We know that there is something unseemly, even humiliating, about submitting ourselves to be ruled by the richest man in town." [NYer]

Enjoy King Con Brooklyn, a fest for Brooklyn comic book artists and more. [McB]

More exhibitionistic bathing on tap. [EVG]

Dig this classic "Gowanus Canal Song." Even in 1898 the smell was "horrid." [PMFA]

Bella's Luncheonette

I've written here before about the feelings I have (and had) for Elizabeth Street. In this post about the street's massive hyper-gentrification, I mentioned the closure of Bella's luncheonette and its 1998 transformation to Cafe Habana as a watershed moment.

From my stash of non-digital photos, these are the only shots I ever took of Bella's, both from the exterior.

The ghost of the HOME COOKING sign remains today, but the rest is gone. "Drink Coca-Cola" and "BELLAS COFFEE SHOP" have vanished.

I wish I had pictures of the interior. I remember a counter with swivel stools and a clock on the wall that advertised St. Joseph aspirin.

I remember sitting at the window eating a cheeseburger after walking back from the 1996 Yankees victory parade and seeing Jim Jarmusch walk by--an event which was, in some ways, more exciting than the Yankees parade.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

How Bloomberg got away with buying New York. [Atlantic]

“Bloomberg represented this development gone wild... That seemed like a great idea when times were flush.” [NYT]

1980s style (like everything else these days): "sanitized for your reconsumption." [NYT]

Young New Yorkers using texts to find sex: "The atmosphere is fluid, like an eBay auction. This leads to a series of marketing strategies... If you have several options perpetually before you, and if technology makes it easier to jump from one option to another, you will naturally adopt the mentality of a comparison shopper." [NYT]

from my flickr

Alert: That "free" chair you found on the street just might be cyber-stalking you. [Curbed]

The East Village "was nothing before Le Souk arrived." [EVG]

Independent merchants not doing well at new Yankee Stadium, "I think what they’re trying to do is force everybody else out." [NYT]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Alex in NYC provides a visual before-and-after of downtown. [FP]

It's not Drew Barrymore, but someone very naked got up on the bar at Mars Bar recently. [SG]

As Guss' Pickles moves to Brooklyn, kimchi readies to move in. [BB]

In the recent past, the sight of a decorated Checker meant free rides for everyone from Taxi Ray. Today, it means free rides for customers of HSBC Bank only. Because, you know, New York's got "different values" now:

The battle of St. Saviour's continues. [QC]

Tribute for Snoopy. [EVG]

New High Line design is breaking ankles. [Gothamist]

The Coney Island polar bears have officially plunged. [ATZ]